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Ellen's Picks

Ellen's Odyssey: 


 Ellen Meeropol is the author of three novels, Kinship of CloverHouse Arrest and On Hurricane Island. A member of the Odyssey staff since 2005, she facilitates the monthly Open Fiction Book Group and reads for the store's First Edition Club. Elli is a founding member and board president of Straw Dog Writers Guild.

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Exit West: A Novel By Mohsin Hamid Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735212176
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Riverhead Books - March 7th, 2017

This may be the best book I’ve read all year, so spot-on honest and hopeful about our world. The novel follows Saeed and Nadia from their unnamed “city teetering on the abyss” through their migration to London and beyond. As the author explains in an interview, he relaxes the laws of physics in one specific way to accomplish their travel. The use of this technique and lack of geographical grounding add to the almost mythical storytelling. But this is not a fairy tale; the novel tackles combating the racism against immigrants and building cooperative new communities. It is also a love story, a story about hope in a very dark time. Don’t miss this one.

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After the Dam By Amy Hassinger Cover Image
ISBN: 9781597097536
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Red Hen Press - September 16th, 2016

The natural world is so much more than setting in Amy Hassinger’s new novel. River, sturgeon, eagles, and three generations of conflicted and intertwined families join forces in this powerful story. Hassinger’s lush prose and nuanced themes of stewardship of our children, our selves, and the earth make this literary page-turner a must-read. 

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Heirlooms: stories By Rachel Hall Cover Image
ISBN: 9781886157910
Availability: Not in Stock - Contact to Order
Published: BKMK Press - September 1st, 2016

You know that feeling when you pick up a book and start reading and quickly understand that you've found a journey you didn't know you needed? That's how I felt reading Rachel Hall’s debut collection of interconnected stories. She invites us into a Jewish family, before and after the Holocaust, in France and Israel and the United States. Quietly and lyrically, Hall explores the profound ties immigrants feel to our past, our losses, our dreams, and each other.


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The Book That Matters Most: A Novel By Ann Hood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393241655
Availability: Not in Stock - Contact to Order
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 9th, 2016

Few authors capture loss and grief, hope and connection like Hood, and in this book she weaves those powerful themes with one of my absolute favorites things – reading books in groups, and how novels both speak to our individual sorrows and connect us with others. Ava’s husband has left her for a yarn-bomber and her daughter Maggie is in trouble in Paris when Ava’s best friend invites her to join her library book group. The theme is “the book that matters most” and each member chooses a book for one of the monthly discussions. This novel reminds us of the power of reading and the many ways that books connect us to each other and to the world.


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Mourner's Bench: A Novel By Sanderia Faye Cover Image
ISBN: 9781557286789
Availability: Not in Stock - Contact to Order
Published: University of Arkansas Press - September 1st, 2015

This took me to 1960’s small-town Arkansas through the eyes of eight-year-old Sarah Jones. The young protagonist is so beautifully brought to life; we feel the Arkansas summer heat, the struggles within her family, her religious yearnings. As the civil rights movement and school integration come to her town, Sarah guides us through an emotional landscape of change and growth. This debut novel is assured and confidant and the window it offers into our shared history is unique.

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The Beginning Things By Bunny Goodjohn Cover Image
ISBN: 9780990433163
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Underground Voices - October 23rd, 2015

Tot is twelve, sizzling with an urgent crush on the wrong boy. Her mother sews to support the family after her husband’s desertion. Dan, the father of said missing husband, moves into the house on Stanley Close, newly widowed, penniless, and very fond of his drink. Tot and her “Dangrad” have always been close and share an affinity for spoonerisms. These linguistic twistings add humor to the prose and provide an oblique way for Tot and Dan to talk about their uncomfortable and difficult-to-discuss issues. Using British slang and a poet’s ear, UK-born Goodjohn weaves the Thompson voices into a cohesive and tightly paced story. I love the toughness of this book as much as I am grateful for its compassion and tenderness.

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All I Love and Know: A Novel By Judith Frank Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062302892
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - April 21st, 2015

This novel is set in contemporary Northampton, MA and in Jerusalem. Daniel and Matt, a gay Northampton couple, travel to Jerusalem to bury Daniel’s twin brother and his wife, killed by a terrorist bomb, and to take custody of their two young children. Frank is masterful at balancing the personal stories of her characters with the explosive political and social issues that propel the plot. Her use of an omniscient point of view works beautifully to integrate Middle East politics with parenting, sexual politics with generational negotiations. Plus, it’s a really, really good read.


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The Celestials: A Novel By Karen Shepard Cover Image
ISBN: 9781935639558
Availability: Not in Stock - Contact to Order
Published: Tin House Books - June 11th, 2013

This was published in 2013 but I heard the author read from it this year. I bought the book partly because she uses an omniscient narration, something I was working on, but mostly because I was so taken with her story of Chinese laborers brought to North Adams, Massachusetts in 1970 as strikebreakers. This is historical fiction at its best – an author’s imagination forging connections between past and present that offer the reader insight into the current issues of immigration, race, and xenophobia.

Running the Rift By Naomi Benaron Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781616200428
Availability: Not in Stock - Out of Print
Published: Algonquin Books - January 3rd, 2012

Young Jean Patrick Nkuba is a runner. He runs for the joy of it, for love of the sport, and for the challenge of becoming Rwanda’s first Olympic medal contender in track. But as the Hutu-Tutsi tensions escalate, he must run for his life and for the survival of his people. Winner of the 2010 Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, Running the Rift is a powerful and richly imagined novel, offering a setting of extraordinary beauty, and the struggle of a young man to come to terms with his world, and make a difference.

The Call: A Novel By Yannick Murphy Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062023148
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Harper Perennial - August 2nd, 2011

[This Novel] is written in the first-person structure of a rural Vermont veterinarian’s logbook plus domestic journal: the call, the action, the results, what we had for dinner, what the kids said. At first, I found it odd, but then was quickly drawn into the layered and deepening story of an accident, a family in crisis, the search for revenge, and an unexpected visitor. Murphy’s writing is lively and engaging; the story is simple and elegant and very moving. I SO did not want my visit to this family and their community to end.